Home > Moths > 13 September 2015 – Poison Hemlock Moth

13 September 2015

13 September 2015 – Poison Hemlock Moth

(Agonopterix alstroemeriana)  The Alstroemerian

The blog title ‘Poison Hemlock Moth’ is rather dramatic for such a delicately marked and innocuous creature.  This moth appeared as the bead-curtain in front of the door of the second-hand bookshop at Shandy Hall was disturbed.  It took flight, landed on the door and then flew to the tree peony bush and posed obligingly upon a leaf.  The markings are so clear that there is no doubt in my mind as to its identity and Agonopterix alstroemeriana is now species 371 to be recorded in the gardens. 

This busy, active moth feeds on  Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) where the scientific name refers to the Greek word konas (to whirl) which in turn reflects the vertiginous state that hemlock apparently induces.  As far as I know there is no hemlock growing in the gardens here which makes the moth’s appearance somewhat strange as it feeds exclusively on this plant.

The Alstroemerian (Depressaria alstromeriana) with Mallow plant

The illustration from British Moths and their Transformations shows the moth flying away from a Mallow plant, perhaps in search of its poisonous preference.  Its name ‘The Alstroemerian’ makes reference to C. Alströmer, a naturalist who was a pupil of Linnaeus. The different first half of the binomial (depressaria) concerns a long and complicated argument as to the folding position of moths’ wings, so complicated that I could dedicate a whole blogpost to it – but I won’t as I still wouldn’t understand it.